A vacation is normally used to bust out of your weekly rut, and for many people that means leaving behind the weekly television schedule and Internet time that dominates home life. And while you definitely want to experience as much excitement and nightlife as possible—you’re probably paying thousands of dollars for the chance, after all—you also want to make sure you leave yourself time to unwind.
Maybe you have the final three episodes of a television series to watch, a few classic movies to relax with, or the latest Song of Ice and Fire to read through during your brief escape from reality. You don’t want to spend your entire vacation in a Walking Dead-induced haze in your hotel room, but a brief recap with a drink in your hand before heading to dinner can be a welcome addition to the overall experience. Here are 3 gadgets that give you access to every kind of entertainment you get at home, while still fitting in your carry-on:
The Roku Player
If you’re new to digital streaming, then this might not be for you. But if you’ve already got a Netflix subscription at home, or you download the occasional movie off Amazon, then this device is the perfect travel companion. For $50 to $90 (depending on whether you want HD or not), you get a gadget about the size of a deck of cards that flawlessly streams all your digital film and television content. Wrap an HDMI cable around it and stow it next to your reading glasses, and when you get to your hotel you connect it to your room’s flatscreen, punch in the hotel’s wifi account, and you’ve got access to the same digital library as you have at home.
An E-Ink Book Reader
By now, you’ve probably glanced at the occasional e-book on your smartphone or tablet. While these things are great for letting you get in a half-chapter while in line at the bank, they don’t provide the immersive experience you’re looking for when you’ve got an hour or more to read, and the screen is nearly impossible to see when you’re outside. An e-ink book reader (not a mini-tablet with a full color screen, but an honest, looks-exactly-like-paper-e-reader) is flawlessly visible in the brightest sunlight, letting you enjoy your book during those few times a year when you can lounge aimlessly on a beach.
And they’re better travel companions than a pile of paperbacks when every square inch of packing space counts. Especially these days, when each additional bag brought on your flight costs as much as dinner for two in a decent restaurant.
Most people don’t have to be told to bring their tablets everywhere—the problem is usually the opposite. But despite our need to unplug once in a while, vacation doesn’t really need to be the time to start. Your regular workweek, when you spend 40-50 hours in front of a computer screen, and then another 4-5 hours in front of the television at night, is when you want to make an effort to interact with what previous generations called “reality.” You’re going to be doing a lot of that on vacation anyway, so you don’t need to feel guilty about spending an hour here and there on YouTube, or checking out your favorite blogs.
We use the Internet so much for professional purposes these days, it’s easy to forget how incredible the whole thing really is, and vacation is the perfect time to rediscover that. And it’s so much more relaxing to play ten minutes of Angry Birds by poolside than it is when you’re hours behind at work and can’t slay the procrastination beast.
All 3 of these gadgets take up less space than 2 hardcover books, so they’re perfect to cram into the smallest piece of luggage you have and stow under your plane seat. Then, after a long day of spear fishing or cliff diving, you can relax in your hotel room and not have to bother with cable re-runs of Friends, or that weird Japanese obstacle course game show that gets dubbed in English and always follows me to every hotel room I’ve ever been in.
John is a tech blogger who takes his Roku 2 XD everywhere he goes. He writes for protectyourbubble.com, an Internet insurer of gadgets, tablets, smartphones—including Samsung’s new Galaxy S4—and everything else you should bring with you on vacation.